Since life is dangerous, how should we live?

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I don’t think I’m revealing anything you don’t already know when I observe that living life is dangerous business. Ever since our First Parents fouled up and got tossed out of the Garden, forbidden fruit juice trickling down the corners of their mouths, Planet Earth has been an address where people are apt to get hurt.

So what do you think? Since this world is a dangerous place, what’s the best way to live? Very, very carefully? Trying to avoid ever taking any chances? As sterile-ly (not a word, but . ..) as possible?

I probably just revealed what I tend to think.

I know God wants his people to be holy and devoted to him. Is that the same as being really careful? Is living what most would call a “Christian” or “good” or “righteous” life the same thing as living a sterile life? Can it get to that point? What do you think? What do you think God thinks?

I know what folks in the religious tradition I grew up in thought, or at least what they were often taught. I mean no disrespect; they blessed me, and lots of them were easy to love. But they were taught that what God really cared about was right ritual in worship. It didn’t occur to us that Jesus’ teaching is remarkable in that he taught almost nothing about “right” (or any other) ritual and said a great deal indeed about right relationship between God and others. (We didn’t understand, by the way, how very different the “new covenant” was from the old. Thus we devalued the new.)

IF what God cares about most is ritual, and IF such a thing exists as absolutely correct ritual, and IF God is impressed if we choose to be really careful and opt to do nothing rather than take a chance on doing something not specifically “authorized,” and IF “unauthorized” is by definition wrong, and IF that’s the right approach to ritual and maybe to life, then …

I know nothing about Eileen Guder, but I like her words, and I think her attitude toward life is closer to Christ’s than ours was. She writes, “You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer, drink no tea, coffee, or other stimulants in the name of health; go to bed early; stay away from night life; you can stay off the freeway, avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give or take offense; mind your own business; avoid involvement in other people’s problems; spend money only on necessities and save all you can. You can do everything the safe way and still you can break your neck in the bathtub, and it will serve you right.”

Recklessness is not holy, but neither is sterility or fear. Jesus turned water to wine; if we his followers major in turning wine to water, we’ll have much to answer for and a genuine reason to be afraid.

Afraid I’m wrong? Take a good look at Matthew 25:14-30. Do you recognize anyone living a sterile, fearful life?

We should know and love our Father better than that.